Letter: Attacks on women stem from deep roots

At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Laura Smith, president of Yale labor union UNITE HERE Local 34, reminded Yalies everywhere that Annie Le’s MED ’13 murder is but one tragic example of the continued victimization of women around the world.

Despite the pervasiveness of violence against women, the words we use to describe Le’s accused killer — monster, psychopath, evil — are meant to distinguish him from “us.” While these words certainly may apply, Le’s tragic death came on the heels of another, if understandably less newsworthy, attack on women perpetrated by men from inside the Yale community: the “Preseason Scouting Report,” the e-mail rating freshmen girls’ attractiveness.

Although I emphatically do not equate such an e-mail with Le’s murder, both attacks contribute to an unwelcoming and unsafe climate for women on Yale’s campus. Whether sexual in nature or not, any act that objectifies women decreases the value of and respect for a female life. And it paves the way for dehumanizing acts that rob us of friends, daughters and fiancées.

My heart goes out to Le’s family and friends. As we move forward from this tragedy, ensuring women’s safety is regrettably not just a matter of stationing police in a lab basement to keep outlier “monsters” at bay. Creating a world where women are not only physically safe but also respected must begin with us: We should root out those who wrote the “Scouting Report” e-mail and show them that we will not stand for a community that objectifies women, strips them of their humanity and thereby places them in danger.

Anna Parks

San Francisco

Sept. 17

The writer is a 2009 graduate of Calhoun College.

Comments

  • Prof Ken

    Alfred Adler correctly found that we all have inferiority complexes to some degree. We work to overcome our inferiorities by developing power—either ‘power over’ or ‘power to’. The simplest, and usually the least rational, is power over. Bosses often use their power to make employees more submissive. But the simplest method of feeling ‘power over’ is by feeling superior to those of another race, a lower social class, another religion, another ethnicity, the other sex, or those with a different sexual orientation. Most people fit here because it doesn’t take any reasoning power to fall into this belief pattern. Women, usually being physically weaker and traditionally being a sub-class to males, are ready targets. Add that to the power oriented sexually stimulated opportunity for rape and you have a ready target for inferiority based violence.
    ‘Power to’, on the other hand, takes work, effort, and often, education. If not education, at least the ability to reason. Neither the ‘power over’ beliefs nor the ‘power to’ abilities are the exclusive domains of liberals or conservatives. Barack Obama and Colin Powell both are ‘power to’ people—as were Jefferson, Einstein, Edison, and Mother Theresa—and as are Tom Brady, Dan Brown, Bill Gates and the Clintons.
    For a much more insightful and complete approach to our psychological motivations I would suggest reading Book 6 of the popular free ebook series “In Search of Utopia” (http://andgulliverreturns.info) And a view of our ethical motivations Book 4 of the same series does an even better job.

  • Common Sense?

    There’s a lot of talk about Annie Le’s murder being related to deep-seated culturally-based victimization of females. Is it at all possible that the murder was just a murder, unrelated to misogyny, rape, almost-rape, or misogyny?

  • Mike

    Anna – I’m a bit confused. Why is it when a woman is killed by a man that it suddenly becomes a case of “continued victimization of women around the world”? What is it called when a woman kills a man or a woman kills a woman? The death of Ms. Le is tragic.

    Could Laura Smith be blowing it out of proportion to call it “victimization of women”?

  • sandimox

    I could not agree more with this article. Had Ms. Le been a man, even if much smaller in size than her accused killer, she would probably still be alive. Viewing women as objects perpetuates violence against them, on a direct level and equally as important, on an indirect level. It is absolutely not blown out of proportion to refer to this as the “victimization of women”.

  • Solange

    Mike, ask yourself this: Why are most murders involving a man killing a woman? There has to be something to that, so just keep that in mind

  • Confused

    Why must this be an “example of the continued victimization of women around the world?” It appears to be a case of workplace violence — what if it had been perpetrated by another woman? Anna’s letter is a knee-jerk reaction that stems from a mentality of women as perpetual victims.

  • Helena

    Most murders are actually men killing men. 79% of all murders in 2006 were of men.

    http://www.ojp.gov/bjs/cvict_v.htm#gender

  • LM

    Until I lived in a predominantly black community, I did not understand the many cries of “racism” I heard from blacks over what I, as a white, deemed minor gaffes. Once I was intimately involved with blacks as friends, neighbors, and my children’s schoolmates,I realized how subtle racism can be. I am a female, and I realize on both an intellectual and visceral level how subtle sexism and objectification of females can be. It happens in such seemingly harmless interactions as a man ogling a woman in the office or asking if a coworker’s daughter is “on the market” as if she were a pig or a cow at the county fair. It happens in abusive or condescending language, in lower wages, in denied promotions, and at times in physical violence. Ms. Smith and Ms. Parks rightly draw a connection between the attitudes that fostered the email and those that foster workplace violence.

  • YaleProf

    #5: this is not true. Most killers are male, most victims are male.

    http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/ageracesex.htm

    In some disciplines at Yale, faculty believe in something called “facts” that one learns rather than makes up. You might shift your courseload in that direction…

  • ROFLCOPTER

    Solange, most murders involve a man killing a man.

    Look up your statistics before you make a fool out of yourself.

  • @#5, Solange

    That’s actually not true. The majority of violent crimes are committed by men, and most of those (65%) are against other men. About 75% of murder victims in general are male.

  • yaleschmale

    i wonder how many of the murders of women are committed by men? Any statistics on that, anyone?

    somehow I doubt that women are the main perpetrators of violence against women….

  • yaleschmale

    I totally agree with this article. Most violence perpetrated against women is by men who objectify women (and find many excuses for it). It doesn’t matter whether most victims of violence are men, and we already know that most killers are male. It’s a question of who is harmimg women, and the answer to that is MEN. Anyone who can come up with “facts” suggesting otherwise would be of great curiosity to me…

  • thedailycomment

    While Laura Smith attempts to find a correlation between the act of mayhem perpertated on Annie Le and the “Preseason Scouting Report,” the e-mail rating freshmen girls’ attractiveness, I beleive her analogy is off mark.

    The horrible murder of Annie Le is a complete an utter act of a misguided individual who appears to have been the equivalent of the ultimate school yard bully gone awry. I agree that this was a horrible case of workplace violence in which the character flaws of one individual were ignored or hidden. This sounds like a person who felt completely helpless and impotent in his everyday life and had to insert his power in ways that were inappropriate and ultimately deadly to Ms. Le.

    I found it odd that the alleged suspect was working with his wife, sister and brother-in-law at the same place in the same capacity.

    Surely someone had complained about this individual’s unbalanced “territorial” behaviour around the animals. I also found it odd that these “technician” jobs would not fall under the category of work study for undergrads instead of outside individuals.

    My first thought was Peta. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Earth Liberation Front coverts are far more like to employ violence in their quests. I have worked with very radical PETA members that were just scary. They were breaking into private homes, vandalizing and sometimes using physical violence from what I could ascertain. This owners the deemed less than satisfactory.

    A murder is still eons above what they have perpetrated in the past, so I guess the authorities have ruled it out.

    On the other hand, the the “Preseason Scouting Report,” falls into the gray category of socialization, in that this male-female sexual dance takes place on American college campuses every year.

    As long as women preen, dress and objectify themselves, men will continue to literally and figuratively “wolf-whistle” at them just like an exaggerated Tex Avery cartoon.

    I am sorry to observe that as long as many women are willing to partner in this social ritual, they are complicit in their own sexual objectification.

    That behaviour often results in hazing, date rape and other reprhensible acts, usually fueled by alcohol consumption and male pack mentality that can occur in male-dominated fraternities or social settings(the US Senate, for instance).

    I see the attempt to relate the two, but in this case the analogy falls far short.

  • YaleProf

    #13: So in your view, you can propose an explanation which is by your own account wrong most of the time (or do males murder other males because men “objectify” men?); and you basically say that men being murdered does not concern you.

  • russell981

    Has anyone on campus picked up on the comments going on outside regarding the relationships between the lab techs and the phd researchers? Might there actually be a “put down” mentality ongoing? I know Mr. Levin wants everyone to get along, but feelings of superiority and inferiority can, obviously get out of hand. Thank you Daily News for your hard work-we’re watching you!

  • Alum

    It’s really a shame that Anna wouldn’t follow the spirit of Ilan Ben-Meir’s op-ed and mourn Annie Le. That is, grieve for the passing of a human being as opposed to exploiting it through implied guesswork about the crime’s motive to make her point and advance an agenda — regardless of that agenda’s merit.

    Oh, and linking it to the “scouting report” e-mail is a particularly low blow — and saying “not that i’m comparing the two” later on is a childish and transparent way of trying to negate that she just did. Putting a young woman’s murder in the same sentence with an “indecent” e-mail is really more offensive than the e-mail, itself.

  • Let’s do it!

    I applaud and support the desire to stamp out the objectification of women (though, given the last 10,000 years of human history, I’m not especially sanguine about our chances of success).

    That said, even had such a crusade achieved victory a decade ago, there’s no evidence yet that it would have saved Ms. Le.

    This is one reason why your analogy is at best premature and at worst self-serving.

    Moreover, using a fallen member of the community as a game-chip to advance a cause–even a noble cause–should wait just a bit, don’t you think?

    I write, I should add, as someone who takes the “scouting report” seriously, but who only in the most theoretical and least crucial terms agrees that there is a connection between these two recent events.

  • missing the point

    Clearly the author isn’t trying to advance an “agenda.” Everyone deals with grief differently, and some do so by trying to learn from horrors such as these and make the world a safer place.

    And whether or not the killing was motivated by gender, it involved a man killing a woman. I don’t see a lot of guesswork going on there.

  • the point

    See Amamda Marcotte in DoubleX: “That said, it’s not completely accurate to assume that because this act of violence began as a power struggle at work doesn’t mean that gender doesn’t play a role in it. According to statistics kept by the Department of Labor (that are sadly out of date), women are more likely to suffer injuries from workplace violence than men. Violence is the second leading cause of death for women at work, after auto accidents. Perhaps with all the attention that Le’s death is getting from the mainstream media, workplace violence against women will start to rate attention in the same way sexual assault and domestic violence do.”

  • Suzee

    The murder of Annie Le is simply another horrific crime against a woman who was not able to defend herself against her male predator. If you review the statistics from various website resources such as the Bureau of Justice, violence against women is a very real social epidemic at a global level. Rape, stalking, and physical assault of women occur on a daily basis with many incidences not being reported due to fear or embarrassment from the victim. An average of three women a day is murdered in the U.S. with one third being by an intimate partner. In many instances, many of the perpetrators of these crimes are not held accountable by our justice system and are free to walk the streets to attack again. It is clear that until tough law reform demands that these criminals are severely prosecuted, women must act to protect themselves against violent crime. Joining self defense classes or workshops is a proactive measure to mentally and physically prepare for a potential attack. Carrying personal protection devices such as TASERS, stun guns, mace and pepper spray are very effective in taking down an attacker within seconds of contact.

    At the end of the day, violence against women is not going away anytime soon. The ignorance from cultural beliefs, prejudice and in some respect media images of women as being the inferior sex all are contributing factors to the victimization of women on a global level. Almost half a century after the feminist movement of the early 1960s took action, have we really come a long way baby? If you think about it, women are still paid lower wages than men, their reproductive rights are under scrutiny, and women in other countries are still being sexually mutilated so they cannot reproduce.

    The VAWA as well as many other organizations such as RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network) and NDVH (National Domestic Violence Hotline) are vital in spreading awareness to our communities that violence against women is not to be tolerated and offenders will be prosecuted. Unfortunately violence against women is a collective response from hundreds of years of intolerance, discrimination and chauvinism, and it may take another hundred years before this serious social issue is truly thwarted on a global level.

    Susan Fredricks is co-founder of http://www.Stingergirlz.com, a women-owned business which is the largest supplier in San Diego of personal protection and home security products.

  • #14

    You are a disgusting, disgusting person.

    You know what? Sometimes, I see women walking around wearing very little clothing. Sometimes they become very drunk. Sometimes they are overtly sexually suggestive.

    And does it EVER cross my mind to rape or commit an act of violence against them? NO.

    It is everyone’s personal responsibility to monitor their own behavior, and the attitudes that they have to their fellow people. If you are a misogynist who feels compelled to harass and assault women because they are wearing a skanky outfit at the local bar, that is one hundred per cent your very own fault. No one is “complicit in their sexual objectification” but the misogynists who sexually objectify them. A woman gets to prance nakedly around wherever she wants and gyrate her hips as much as she wants and if she says no, she still gets to say no, and it does not mean she is inviting assault.

    And here’s a news flash: “wolf whistling” and harassing women is a form of violence; it makes us feel unsafe and threatened.

    No wonder there is violence against women. People like you.

  • anonymous

    This letter is noting but a piece of bigoted misandric nonsense.

  • joey groanie

    Should’nt this Lab Tech , or Lab Tech positions and any other like it be a member(s) of Local 35 and not 34 ?
    Or since you have a general laboror position chummed in with Clerical and Lab workers than what does 35 kitchen and janitors get ? Environmental justice assistants ? Yale Law school fellows ? Chums of Alums ?
    I always found it humorous watching the local land baronness Beulah and University Properties enlist the aid and assistance from lesbian yale woman,who touted themselves as thugs and brutes who will get the job done,no matter how hard. no job too small, And if they are confronted they can always turn back into the cupie doll that their daddy will always know them as

  • fail

    #22 misses the point, is unrealistic

  • Alice

    #25- You can’t just say that without backing it up. Otherwise you sound like you think women who dress sexily deserve it if they get raped–which is like saying that someone with a nice house deserves it if someone breaks in and steals things.

    #22’s point that no one should be raped, even if they are barely dressed, shouldn’t be so controversial.

  • liz

    #5, Solange, most murder victims are men who are killed by men

  • human

    I didn’t realize exactly why I was so freaked out by this murder until I went back to work on Monday. I work in construction, on a Yale building, and I’m one of the only women. Before this murder, every time I worked late and was in the basement by myself I was spooked.
    I have a deep respect for most of the men I work with. However I get a bad vibe from a few of them who like to intimidate me by creepily staring and
    making little jokes to each other. I’m a pretty tough girl but this murder reminded me that women do get raped and murdered and any one of those guys could hurt me very easily. p.s. construction companies hire x cons!!

    Ray Clark used to live a few blocks away from me, he played in my softball league, and I was a few blocks away when the murder happened. Annie Le was just human like everyone else.

  • silly

    Jesus, let the pre-season scouting report die already. What other abstract concept can we peg it to?